7.09.2013

shadow box

It's funny how ominous the phrase "shadow box" sounds...like a place where secrets are kept.

But that's not how they started. Sailors used to believe it was bad luck if their shadows touched the land before they did. So an arriving sailor would encase medals and souvenirs and other memorabilia into a box to carry onto land. It was his shadow in that box, and in this way, it was protected.

When we were little, my room would occasionally become overrun with the stuff of childhood: a few too many used books, doll clothes left by the neighbor, trinkets and tags and little pieces of nature I tried so desperately to preserve. When it started to drive my mom up the wall, she'd sit on the bedroom floor with me, pile everything in the middle of the room, and begin the sorting: trash, donate, keep.

It's a habit that hasn't left me. I am almost always looking around our place with my trash-donate-keep glasses on.

Except when I'm looking at my shadow box.

shadow box

Here is where I keep the stuff of my shadow, the stuff of childhood, the stuff that has no purpose but needs a place.

My mom recently donned her own trash-donate-keep glasses again. As my parents joyously anticipate retirement and a simpler old age, she is already paring things down, emptying the shadow boxes filled with the stuff of their lives together. On our last visit, my sister and I picked through all those things, finding memories in every nook. Soon, mini tea sets and china kittens will arrive at my front door in a cardboard box, and in my own shadow, I will find places for the things that have for so long been a part of our shadow.

shadow box

shadow box

shadow box

They're only things, I guess. But they are things that will be held between chubby little fingers someday, just as they were held by so many chubby fingers in the past. And I will be glad to have them.

10 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful post! It's always interesting the learn the history behind an everyday object...so cool that there's an old story and superstition about shadow boxes. I really like the way you've displayed your meaningful bits and bobs. I have lots of little things like this that just sit around my windowsill rather forlornly...I'll have to see if I can find one of these at Goodwill or something and make a display!

    Alicia
    Jaybird Blog

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    1. Yep, it helps me feel much less cluttered, for sure!

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  2. What an interesting story behind the shadow box. I got rid of most of my trinkets when I sold my house and moved in with my husband. I still have a few special ones tucked away in a keepsake box. The wooden figurines look like they have a bit of history behind them. Have they been in your family a long time?

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    1. Sort of! They belonged to a relative, but I'm not sure when or how she got them...I should ask!

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  3. So so sweet Clair! Thank you for sharing. And what an interesting look into the history of shadow boxes. I had no idea! I must ask, where did your shadow box display come from?! I'm sure it has it's own story, too. :)

    Leaner By The Lake

    p.s. chubby fingers :)

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    1. It's an old printer's tray (which have become really popular for pinterest projects and are now more expensive). My parents used to pick them up when they came across them at antiques places or junk shops, and my dad would refinish them. There are a couple in their home, and they gave one to each of us.

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  4. Aw, I love how your shadow box turned out! We still need to find a place for ours. All these darn windows in our living room don't leave much wall space for hanging things!! :) xo

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  5. Box is ready to go....it was crying today because it's been sitting there for awhile...guess I better get it sent!

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  6. Aw, love this! It's so fun to keep your sentimental things close by, especially when they're so beautifully displayed and are art as well as history!

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  7. Adorable! I honestly thought that it was a stock photo of a shadow box displayed above - well done on the photos! And I would totally have a cool shadow box like that if I had treasures like yours- so eclectic.

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Thanks for making me smile. =)